DANVILLE — Attitude sums up the major reason for the success of Danville’s girls’ basketball program.
It’s the desire to get rebounds and to capture more than the opponents even though the tallest Vikings starter is listed at 5-foot-8.
It’s the desire to compete in a sport which, for some team members, is not their best one.
“Everybody loves the game,” said Jade Carter, one of six Danville seniors. “We do it for fun.”
This season has been one fun run.
Danville’s 41-30 triumph against Champaign Central on Thursday improved the team’s record to 12-5. That’s three more wins than the program had at the end of last season.
“Coming into the year, we didn’t talk about wins and losses,” first-year head coach Brian Anderson said.
“We talked about competing and playing hard.”
The Vikings excel in an area which isn’t always the most glamorous.
“They play great defense,” Central coach Martin Pazanin said, “very solid man-to-man.”
It’s a tribute to attitude.
Alexus Jimson-Miller is another of the six seniors. A state qualifier last spring in the hurdles, she recently had a campus visit scheduled for the University of Illinois and received permission from Anderson to miss a practice.
“She went to Illinois after our practice,” he said. “That’s the type of girl she is. She loves playing with her friends.”
Carter is the epitome of the mentality reflected in a team rebounding from a fourth sub-.500 season in five years.
“When the ball is on the floor, she is usually on the floor,” Anderson said. “Jade won’t get outworked any night. She gives great effort and provides a lot of toughness.”
She also provided more points than any player in the Big 12 game. She hit a game-high 11 points. Teammate Lynette Buggs, the tallest starter at 5-8, added nine points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
“We struggle shooting, but they flat-out compete,” Anderson said.
Danville has won three of its last four games. Just once in the past five did the Vikings score more than they managed against the Maroons, and that output was more by one point.
“Coach stresses defense,” Carter said, “and our defense is better than last year. I knew it would be a good season. I’m excited about our record.”
Anderson called Thursday’s win one of the season’s most significant.
“We’ve beaten teams we should have beat,” he said. “We needed a win against a good team.”
Central (11-8) falls into that category. The Maroons were ranked 13th in this week’s Class 3A state poll.
“It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that we started to outplay them, and time ran out on us,” Pazanin said.
Central cut a 14-point second-half deficit to six points (32-26) following a steal and conversion by Payton Stillman with 5:36 remaining.
“This was a big one,” Anderson said.
Danyae Schoffner led the Maroons with 10 points. Imani Maatuka had eight points, and teammate Justice Winfield led Central with eight rebounds.
Danville held a 41-33 edge on the boards.
With a 6-2 league record, the Vikings are in sole possession of third place in the conference halfway through the home-and-home Big 12 series.
“I knew this would be a good season,” Carter said. “I hoped it would be special.”
Normal Community 31, Urbana 29. Jessica Mack scored nine points for the Tigers in their Big 12 loss at home to Normal Community. It was the team’s eighth loss in a row.
Urbana’s Karidia Shelby scored seven points, and Kiara Moses had six points.